The Avignon Exile

During the Avignon Exile period, the seat of the Papacy was moved from Rome to Avignon. Avignon is a small provincial town next to the Rhone River in France. The Avignon exile took place between the years 1309 and 1378. Therefore, the Avignon papacy/ Exile is the name given to this period in the Roman Catholic Church's history, and it lasted between 1309 and 1378 during which the papacy operated from Avignon, France and not from Rome, Italy as it had traditionally since the first century AD.

In 1305, Clement V (who was a Frenchman) was elected as pope after the death of Benedict XI. After the election, Clement refused to move to Rome and instead remained in France. His refusal was a result of the conflict that had arisen between Boniface VIII and Philip IV. In 1309, Clement V moved to Avignon and established his court there. Therefore from 1309 to 1378 the papacy remained in Avignon. It was during this period that the papacy was referred to as being in exile (from Rome); hence the term "the Avignon Exile."

Seven popes were in office while the papacy was in Avignon i.e. during the Avignon exile. The following are their names and the years during which they were in office

Pope Clement V (1305 – 1314), Pope John XXII (1316 – 1334), Pope Benedict XII (1334 – 1342), Pope Clement VI (1342 – 1352), Pope Innocent VI (1352 – 1562), Pope Urban V (1362 – 1370) and Pope Gregory XI (1370 – 1378). In 1378, Pope Gregory XI returned the papacy from Avignon to Rome, bringing  the Avignon Papacy to an end. However, this gave rise to the Great Schism which lasted from 1378 until 1417.

The Great Schism which followed the exile is a period during which there were great controversies concerning who was to be elected as the Pope. Different parties within the Catholic Church were divided on this issue until 1414 when the Council of Constance conveyed in order to resolve the controversy. The Great Schism was finally resolved in 1417. During the Great Schism, France supported the pope in Avignon while England supported the claim that the pope should live in Rome. After the controversy was resolved in 1417, France and England had ceased most of their relations and this led to them being established as different state powers of Europe; as they remained and still are in current day Europe.

During the Avignon exile, the Roman Catholic Church was percieved as a more political organization than it had been beforehand. This was because the minions of the Church were seen as refugees who could not execute their authorities due to their fear and limitations. The head of Catholic Church, ever since the establishment of Catholic Church and papacy, had been known to operate from Rome. Therefore moving the papacy from Rome to Avignon seemed to be caused by external forces and not because of the interests of the Church.